The Gap Between You and Me - Chapter 2
Herietta’s eyes fluttered. Her heart twitched like a fish taken out of water. Her hands trembled at the uncontrollable tension. She was so nervous that she couldn’t even fathom whether she was inhaling or exhaling.
Everyone paved the way for the two men. But Herietta was immobile and stood glued to the ground. Could it be that her existence was questionable? Edwin’s eyes turned to her as he followed the Count.
Their eyes only met for a moment. But that brief time was enough. An intense tremor, as if she were struck by lightning, spread throughout her body. His eyes were the same color as the deep blue sea. His blue eyes with long eyelashes were breathtakingly seductive. Her legs trembled.
Her knees suddenly bent, and at some point, Herrietta sat down on the floor. Because of the extreme tension, it seems that her legs did not even have enough strength left to support her light body.
The people saw her crumple and sink to the floor, but they didn’t care. They only cared about Edwin. He was the only one who possessed a splash of color in the room that seemed to have turned monochromatic as he entered. Everyone was fascinated with him.
Edwin’s gaze, which had passed Herietta earlier, fell back on her.
“Ah… th, that.”
Herrietta’s mouth trembled. Her head went blank when she realized he was looking at her. She knew she was acting like a fool but she really couldn’t think of anything.
“Ov, over there, that’s…”
That was the moment Edwin stopped walking.
Everyone held their breath as he stopped. He looked at Herietta for a moment. His inner feelings were ununderstandable with such a strange look.
Then he turned and approached her, leaned over, and extended his hand towards her.
Herietta looked at his long fingers covered by the white gloves. Maybe she was dreaming with her eyes open. Or she was lost in an imaginary land.
The distance was so close that they could feel the breath of the other person. Edwin had a faint musk scent. Herietta grabbed his hand as if she were possessed by something. Warmth passed through his thin gloves.
For a moment, she was terrified. It was because she was afraid that he might laugh at her or despise her.
But upon making eye contact with him, she soon realized that her expectations were completely wrong. He did not ridicule her or despise her. He was neither pitying nor disdainful. There were no emotions there. He was looking at her but not looking at her either.
It was indifference. There was only complete and utter indifference towards others.
Thud. It felt like she had been hit in the head with a big hammer. At the same time, something that was trying to penetrate deep in her heart was mercilessly trampled on.
Edwin helped Herietta stand up. Like a doll hanging from a thread, she moved without power as he held her up. She wondered if her body was floating, but at the next moment, she was already standing on her two feet.
“Are you okay?”
Edwin looked into Herietta’s eyes and asked quietly. But he didn’t seem to ask for an answer. As proof of that, as soon as he confirmed that she had gained her balance, he took back the hand he had extended to her. After giving a polite nod, he went back to the Count who was waiting for him.
She didn’t even have time to say thank you.
The sound of his heavy footsteps moving away from her was unrealistically loud in Herietta’s ears. She looked back at him, as hard as a piece of stone. There was still warmth in the hand she touched him with.
‘Are you alright?’
It was a soft but stable voice. It was so wonderful that it perfectly matched his beautiful appearance.
‘Are you alright?’
The word kept echoing in her head. Her thoughts went into overdrive. She wanted to face Edwin once again, at any cost. She wanted to see her image in his eyes and engrave herself in his mind. As long as she could confirm her existence through him, nothing else mattered.
When Herietta unconsciously chased after Edwin, Lilian, who ran after her, grabbed Herietta’s shoulder.
Herietta was startled. The moment she felt Lilian’s hand on her shoulders, she realized what she was trying to do. It felt as if the magic spell had been broken. Colors were applied to the gray world, one by one, and a sound began to fill the quiet hall. Her eyes widened in surprise.
Seeing Herietta’s confused look, Lilian put on a worried expression.
“Herietta! What happened? Why were you sitting on the floor? Did you get anemia?”
“No. It’s not like that…”
“Rose argued that I wouldn’t have to worry about your health, but what is this? I guess I’ll have a doctor see you when we get home.”
“By the way, don’t you know how surprised I was that you suddenly went away like that? It seems that the Baroness and Lord Welch have become embarrassed by your sudden action. When we meet them later, make sure to sincerely apologize to them… Herietta, Herietta! Are you listening to me?”
Frowning, Lilian scolded her niece, had her mind elsewhere. But Herietta did not listen to her. She kept her head straight and desperately looked at one spot in the room.
“Aunt. Who was that person?”
Lilian glanced at where Herietta’s gaze was directed.
“Are you talking about Count Shanks?”
“No. The young man who was with the Count.”
He was the one who helped me up. Herietta thought, blushing. Then, Lilian’s expression changed as if she understood what was happening.
“You are talking about Sir Edwin. The tall and blonde gentleman.”
Herietta nodded eagerly at the familiar name. Edwin. Even the name was charming. Her eyes shone with the most life since she came to Lavant. Seeing this, Lilian made an ambiguous expression. Lilian, who seemed to be thinking of something, asked.
“Do you know the Duke of Redford?”
“Yes. The Duke of Redford. Their family has a long history because it had existed since the founding of Brimdel, and is considered one of the most influential and wealthy families among all the nobles in existence. It is said that they have the noblest bloodline in Brimdel, except for the royal family. In fact, most of the heads of the Redford family have married women of the royal family, so it’s no wonder that they are known as such.”
In the back alleys, there were even jokes that the legitimate heirs of the Redford family had purer royal blood than the current royals. But there had never been a person powerful enough to question whether it was true or not.
“Sir Edwin is the heir to the Duchy of Redford. He is, in a word, the next duke.”
“The next duke…”
Herietta repeated Lilian’s words. A duke. To the daughter of a Viscount who was at the bottom of the noble class, he was a very distant and high-ranking person. Only then did she understand why Count Shanks was so happy to see Edwin.
“Auntie. How can I see Sir Edwin again?”
Lilian’s tone of voice rose even higher. She asked while observing Herietta. After a while, she shook her head.
“You poor child…”
“What do you mean?”
“Your poor heart. Don’t foolishly fall for something that’s not within your grasp.”
It was said in a soft tone, but the meaning contained within it was sharp. Herietta’s expression hardened.
She bit her lower lip. It felt like someone had covered her face with a pillow.
“What are you talking about?”
“Herietta. Don’t you think I’ve seen women with a face like you once or twice in my life? It would be more difficult to read an open book.”
It meant that her longing was useless. Herietta gave her aunt a bitter look. She looked once more to the place where Edwin had disappeared to. But he had long since gone from the ballroom. Lilian turned Herietta’s head to face her again.
“Herietta Mackenzie, my dear niece. Don’t you know that the Redford family is famous just for that one duke? He is indeed famous because of the immense wealth and honor he was given from his birth, but he is also famous for his outstanding individual abilities. Not only is he knowledgeable and proficient in martial arts, but his appearance is also so beautiful that it will blow your mind. You don’t know how many talented people the Redford family has produced. It is also said that the most valuable of Brimdel’s treasures was the Redford family. It is the people of Redford that make you think life is so unfair just by looking at them, and Sir Edwin is the most unrivaled of them all.”
“How do you think you compare?”
Lilian asked bluntly. Herietta could not readily answer.
Philioche is a small rural village that is not well marked on the map. She is eldest daughter of Viscount Mackenzie who rules the territory. Far from wealth and fame, it would be much easier to find someone who didn’t know her family than someone who did.
Seeing her hesitation, Lilian sighed.
“Even if we are also nobles, our standing in society is not the same. Low-ranking nobles like you and me cannot even exchange words with important nobles like him. He probably sees us as not much different from mere commoners.”
“It’s not unheard of that you shouldn’t even look at a tree you can’t climb.”
Even if it was advice to her niece, it was a bit harsh. Herietta’s face turned red. Her stomach boiled as she looked straight at her aunt.
“Auntie. So, who should I have in mind? Sir Welch, who is short and ordinary? Or Baron Marlon, who is thirty years older than me?”
Herietta asked in a rising tone of voice.
“If you decide that you want to have it with all your heart, can you stop it? If so, can you really say that it is the absolute truth?”
“Don’t even look at a tree you can’t climb? But isn’t there a saying that you can achieve your goals when you have big aspirations and aim for more than you hope for? To dream and to be able to follow through with it, you don’t have to get someone else’s permission, don’t you?”
Lilian looked at her courageous niece, who openly exhibited her anger as if she were wronged. She thought that the mother and daughter weren’t similar, but now that she saw it, Herietta was exactly like her younger sister, Rose, when she was younger.
Rose said that she would marry the prince of a country no matter what. But as she grew older, she understood the laws of this world, and in the end, she gave up that marriage to a poor Viscount in the countryside.
Lilian, who had recalled the past, responded to her niece in an even softer tone.
“Herietta, I apologize if my words hurt you. I also want you to have big aspirations and I want you to achieve more. This is what I sincerely wish for you, no matter what anyone says.”
Lilian stroked Herrietta’s head.
“As you said, no one can stop you from dreaming and chasing after it. But unfortunately, there are things in the world that are impossible no matter how hard you try, and there are things you cannot have.”
“…You mean Sir Edwin?”
Herietta asked with sad eyes. Lilian nodded.